Attending conferences or business events can be incredible opportunities for individuals to make valuable and mutually beneficial connections. Unfortunately, going into an event without a networking strategy may lead to the dreaded pile of business cards and pamphlets but no connections to leverage. How do you build a networking strategy and implement it when attending an event? Check out the list of tricks below to make the most of these events and create a valuable network.

1. Set a goal

Why are you attending the event and what are looking to get out of it? You might be looking to meet investors to help grow your business or to meet more experienced business owners who can act as mentors. Setting a goal allows you to focus your attention and set an intention.

2. Do your research

What key players will be at the event that you are hoping to connect with? Most conferences and business events share the lineup of speakers or resources that will be present. Find out who will be there and determine if/how they can help you reach the goal that you set.

3. Ask questions and listen

What questions would you love to have answered when you meet those key players? You don’t have to carry a list of questions around with you, but preparing some questions ahead of time can help eliminate awkward introductions and propel conversations forward. More importantly, when you ask questions, listen to the answers you receive. Most people can tell when someone isn’t actively listening to them and this threatens the continuation of the relationship.

4. Connect and engage

How can you further connect with those key players? Instead of walking away with only a business card, connect with them on LinkedIn. This creates an additional line of communication and can help you further engage them with you and your business.

5. Follow up

How do you make a lasting impression? Many key players at these events meet a lot of people and it can be difficult for them to remember everyone. Similar to job interviews, a quick follow up not only reminds them of that connection with you but can lead to a lasting relationship. Include a quick summary of the conversation that you had with them. Even if they don’t immediately remember the conversation, a follow up can initiate further dialogue once they’ve returned to their office.

Please comment and share your experiences and networking knowledge – we would love to hear from you!

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Camryn Lawyea is a student employee of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families and a student of Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management. Her father is a veteran of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, respectively.